Finally, I can rip out the remains of my truly sad crop of summer vegetables (or technically fruit – whatever) and try my luck at fall crops. This thing about growing successive veg crops over one season is, honestly, a bit confusing/overwhelming for this newbie, but I keep it simple by picking up whatever starts I can find. No planning, no research, just impulse-buying a few 6-packs of plants I enjoy eating. In my case that means skipping the salad greens in favor of cooked greens, and here’s the selection: red cabbage, ‘Red Giant’ mustard, ‘Georgia’ collards, and plain old spinach.
I planted a few of the red cabbage in the pots on my front porch, where they’re mixed potager-style with ornamentals. The rest are in pots on my sunny deck, where I discover an advantage to container gardening – I can move the container in or out of full sun, as required. So when the collards wilted after their first exposure to sun, I could just roll them into the shade for the rest of the day. So glad those larger containers have wheels!
In the rest of the garden, September is still about watering and weeding. Though the temperatures are finally dropping a bit, we need to keep watering the shrubs and trees through the first hard frost so that they can survive the winter. Evergreens especially need to go into winter well hydrated. They’re the plants that rarely wilt, giving us the sign that they need watering; they seem to just up and die. And if you see your evergreens dropping their old leaves or needles, not to worry – they just do that this time of year.
On the plus side, there’s no need to fertilize or prune now. In fact, it’s better NOT to because both will stimulate new growth, which wouldn’t have time to harden off before it gets really cold. That lovely new growth would quickly be killed.
But my favorite September chore of all is, as you can probably guess, buying new plants! So I’m naturally frustrated by the practically-full state of my garden, as it offers so few opportunities to do my favorite thing. This fall my primary acquisitions are some creeping sedums, which I’m using to replace my lawn. (Photos of those soon – after they fill in a bit.) And I’ll be picking up a few of those happy mums for the pots on my front porch.
I’m starting to remove some of the rattier leaves on perennials (I’m looking at you, hostas), but I leave the coneflower seeds heads alone until early spring because the goldfinches literally flock to them. And I’m itching to move lots of perennials, because constant tweaking is what perennial beds are FOR, right? It’s fine to move the thick-rooted plants like daylilies and hostas now but for most perennials I’ll have to wait until it cools down and promises to stay cooled down. So having waited all summer to implement my newest redesign, I wait some more.
It suddenly occurs to me that I have bulbs to buy soon and I’d better decide what I want. (Again, note the lack-of-planning theme.) But when I DO sit down to plan my purchases, looking through photos like this of my garden in spring will help (coz who can remember?) I won’t start planting them until next month, though.
Now’s the time to seed or overseed, and I covered the details of seeding here. It’s also time to feed your lawn, and I’ll just quote from Mike McGrath’s talk on the subject: “Even if you’ve applied corn gluten meal in the spring, a fall feeding is still essential and compost is the ideal. That means the end of August through September.” If you use compost, he recommends a 1-inch layer, and gives a big thumb’s up to Maryland’s own bagged compost product, Leafgro.
I’ll be writing lots more about lawn fertilizer later this week.